Wednesday, November 29, 2000

WRITER: Kathy R. Pharr, 706/542-5172, pharr@arches.uga.edu

CONTACT: Prof. Ron Carlson, 706/542-5186 (O); (706)/548-6771 (H)


ATHENS, Ga. - If Governor George Bush wants to win the mounting public relations war over the protracted presidential election, he should rethink his strategy and drop his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, says Professor Ron Carlson, a nationally renowned trial law expert at the University of Georgia School of Law.

"It's within the purview - the discretion of the Bush team - to decide between now and Friday to let the case go," says Carlson. "If they dismiss the appeal, they will gain in terms of the public perception that they are finally cutting off this process. The cost to the Bush side is the appearance of doing what they're accusing Gore of doing - that is, extending the process with legalisms."

Carlson says Bush has little to gain by having his attorneys argue before the Supreme Court on Friday, because the court may very well hear the arguments and determine the issue raised is moot. "I think the most likely scenario is that the Supreme Court will find the issue to be moot because the appealing party has no damages to claim," says Carlson. "Whatever adversity occurred to them as a result of the Florida Supreme Court decision has now been removed by this second certification. They did not lose in the end, at least in the view of the Florida officials that were responsible for the recount being reported."

Carlson predicts that the spotlight will quickly shift from the U.S. Supreme Court - which has authorized an audio recording of Friday's oral arguments to be broadcast via radio on a tape delay, a move Carlson heralds as "an extremely healthy and totally appropriate development" - to the Florida trial courts, where Vice President Al Gore has announced he will contest election results in at least three counties.

"A contest is a trial in every sense of the word," says Carlson. "I expect there will be opening statements, there will be direct and cross-examination of witnesses, there will be closing arguments, and then a decision by a judge. What we have here is an extended process at best. I expect these trials to be nationally televised, given the national interest in these issues, and I would expect it to be extended well beyond the deadline for certifying of electors. The public does not yet understand the lengthy process that a contest entails, but as the outlines become fully and starkly known, it will be a public relations disaster."

Carlson, a nationally recognized expert in trial practice, has litigated many cases and has been admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He has written numerous books on trial techniques and provided extensive commentary for the national media in high-profile trials. He may be reached for further contact at (706) 542-5186 (O) or (706) 548-6771 (H).